Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monday Flickr Blogging So Random It's Tuesday

"That's the last time I trust you to put mushrooms in the spaghetti sauce, Ken."

"Just roll with it, Barbie. Imagine you're back in your Malibu Dream House."

(Original picture posted here.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Get Out Of My Head!

Okay, what gives? Apparently somebody at the SF Chronicle is reading my blog -- or my mind. First, I run the Kevin Tillman piece here last Friday, then it shows up in yesterday's Chron. Then yesterday I post the bit about "staying the course," and use the famous Orwell slogans. So how does today's Chron lead editorial about Bush's flip-flop begin?

"WAR IS PEACE. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength."

Let's hope we have not reached George Orwell's "doublespeak" future depicted in his novel "1984" where the Ministry of Truth erects a giant pyramid enshrining those slogans.

But when President Bush says "stay the course" doesn't mean "stay the course," you have to start worrying about our national leadership's ability to redefine almost everything.

Hey! Get the freakin' hell out of my blog AND my mind! Write your own damn copy -- or start sending me checks for services rendered!


Wednesday Vacation Blogging: Leshan

We traveled east by bus about 100 miles from Chengdu (the capital city of Sichuan Province) to the town of Leshan, famous for its giant stone Buddha. This is the largest stone Buddha in the world, and it really is quite impressive. It was built over a period of 90 years, beginning in the year 713, by a monk named Haitong and his disciples. The reason behind its construction lies in the fact that it sits at the confluence of three rivers -- the Min, the Dadu and the Qingyi -- and before it was built, there were many boating accidents in the swirling waters there. Haitong believed that if he built a giant Buddha in that particular spot, facing Mt. Emei, it would calm the waters and keep people from drowning. His plan worked, but not the way he might have expected. Apparently, all the rock that was dumped in the river from the carving raised the level of the river and made the waters less dangerous. Some 1300 years later, this is still an incredibly impressive site, and thousands of tourists, both Chinese and Western, visit every year.

(As always, click on the picture for a larger view.)

When we first arrived, we were greeted with this admonition before we started the hike up to the Buddha and the surrounding structures.
There are many smaller statues set all over the site, like this one of another Buddha and his two buds.
There are also all sorts of fountains and other stone carvings up the ying-yang.
This Buddha head is inside one of the many temples that surround the site.
...As are these two jolly fellows (and plenty more like them).
It's supposed to be good luck to rub this Buddha's belly, which is why it's so shiny. From the expression on his face, I'd say this gentleman just got lucky.
I believe we mailed some post cards from the Giant Buddha Post Office.
Finally, the Giant Buddha himself, carved into the side of the mountain, and with stone steps carved along each side of it leading precariously to the foot of the statue and the river below.
There are all sorts of carvings in the rock wall itself as you descend and come back up the ancient stone steps.
Looking at the people on the right gives you some perspective on just how big this Buddha is. It was raining that day, and so many of the pictures we took have these spots on them from raindrops.
On the climb back up, you pass this building, which is a restaurant run by the local monks. I don't know why we didn't eat here, but instead waited until we finished the tour and had a meal in town before taking the bus back to Chengdu.
A lone boater braves the swirling waters at the foot of the Buddha.
My rock star moment: There were quite a few school kids visiting the Giant Buddha from various spots around the country, and many of them had had little or no contact with Westerners before. They were fascinated with me, especially when they learned I was from California. I spent a good twenty minutes posing for pictures with many of them, and even signing autographs (!!).
Yet another statue on the grounds, probably carved around the same time as the Giant Buddha or shortly thereafter.
This pavilion with a huge bell in it was a nice respite from the rain.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Constantly Adjusting Tactics

I guess it depends on what the definition of "stay" is. And "the." And "course."

Preznit Petulance is disavowing that, when he said "stay the course" over the past three-plus years, he really meant "stay the course." He didn't mean that at all, he says now. "Listen, we've never been stay the course, George," he told George Stephanopolous over the past weekend. Uh huh. I believe him. Because, I mean, after all, he's the President, and the President wouldn't just lie and prevaricate and make shit up, would he? That's the Vice President's job.

Continuing with an irregular series of letters I send to the editor of the SF Chronicle (which only rarely get published), here is my response to this bit of historical revisionism that may or may not show up in the next couple days in the Op-Ed section of the local paper:

Editor --

The October 24th Chronicle headline announces that George Bush wishes to clarify the meaning behind his numerous pronouncements that the United States will "stay the course" in Iraq by saying that "stay the course" actually means "constantly adjusting the tactics."

I look forward to the coming weeks when Mr. Bush will also clarify a few other concepts that Americans may have misinterpreted. For instance, that War is actually Peace, that Freedom is, in fact, Slavery, and that Ignorance is Strength.

Actually, given what his administration has been able to accomplish in six years, he may be correct about that last one.

-- (Name withheld to protect me from being declared an enemy combatant)

A Little Joementum Blogging, Just For Old Times' Sake

From the blog My Left Nutmeg (great name! -- and a big hat tip to my pal Dean in Connecticut for the link) comes this interesting tidbit from the debate Joe Lieberman participated in with challengers Ned Lamont (the Democrat) and Alan Schlesinger (the Republican):

It could be the most important one liner of the debate.

"You goddamned son of a bitch, how dare you accuse me of voting for the Energy Bill because I got a contribution."

Those were the words allegedly spoken by Joe Lieberman to Ned Lamont immediately after tonight's debate at the Garde Arts Center in New London. And although Lieberman cupped his hand over his mic, looking for all the world like he was taking the Pledge of Allegiance, his bitter remark was picked up on the audio feed, according to the report I heard. It didn't make the air (that had already been cut) but, if the report is accurate, WTNH should have the audio.

We shall see.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Mayberry RFB

After a spectacularly successful day at the Flea Market, Aunt Bea decided to treat herself to a complete makeover before she went back home from Mt. Pilot.

(Original image, #3355, posted here. Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

After Pat

My good friend Scott pointed me toward this message from Kevin Tillman, brother of the late Pat Tillman, who left the NFL and, along with Kevin, joined the Army. Kevin has much to say about the state of this country and the current occupation we find ourselves enmeshed in in Iraq. This is quite a powerful and eloquent piece, so I'm taking the liberty of reprinting it here in its entirety.

After Pat’s Birthday

Pat and Kevin Tillman
Courtesy the Tillman Family

Pat Tillman (left) and his brother Kevin stand in front of a Chinook helicopter in Saudi Arabia before their tour of duty as Army Rangers in Iraq in 2003.

By Kevin Tillman

Editor’s note: Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin, who was discharged in 2005, has written a powerful, must-read document.

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Come On, Have A Drink!

As you already know if you've looked at the BARBARian Blog or seen some of the comments I've left on various other sites lately, it's once again time for the Bay Area Resident Bloggers And Readers to gather and jaw and hoist a few. Thursday, October 19, is the scheduled date, and we'll start gathering about 6-ish. Our first meeting was nearly two years ago, and we're returning to the original scene of the crime, Ben & Nick's in Oakland. Or is it Berkeley? Where am I? What's today?

Anyhow, if you take BART to the Rockridge exit and stumble around for a block or so, you'll probably find us. For more specific directions and information, check out this post on the BARBARian site. Hope to see some new faces there, as well as lots of the usual suspects!

It's October, Do You Know Where Your Surprise Is?

The internets are buzzing with rumors, and I admit, I don't think Karl Rove has pulled all his aces out of his sleeve yet. Something is going to happen, and soon. Maybe in the next week. Preznit Temper Tantrum refuses to even acknowledge the possibility of Democrats taking back the House or Senate in the coming elections, and maybe he knows something we don't. Whether it's more Diebold shenanigans or something even more sinister (like an unprovoked military attack on one of our aircraft carriers, for instance), no one can say.

There is a Naval task force headed to the Persian Gulf as I write this, and I have to wonder if Turd Blossom and his pals are really willing to sacrifice the men and women on one of those ships to ensure a Republican victory (and a long-desired war with Iran) next month. Are we all just misguided conspiracy theorists for thinking this? Is it still paranoia if they really are out to get you?


Well, that's it. It's over. Done. Finished. The grand experiment that was the United States has been killed, the final nail put in the coffin with Emperor Palpatine's Preznit Stay The Course's signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Now he can legally detain anyone, inside or outside the US, withhold evidence against that person, torture him and keep him incarcerated indefinitely, thanks to our shameless rubber-stamp Congress (including far too many misguided Democrats) ceding their power to the new King of America. Whether the Supreme Court will ultimately find this legislation unconstitutional or not is anyone's guess -- though I'm not personally holding out much hope. After all, what's more important -- hundreds of years of precedent and guaranteed Constitutional rights or keeping the Torturer in Chief happy? I think I already know how Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, at least, feel about it.

Buh-bye, due process of law. So long, habeas corpus. Adios, right to examine the evidence against you. Later, right to a speedy trial. It was nice knowing all of you.

Excuse me now, won't you? There are a couple men in dark suits at my door...

Monday, October 16, 2006

It Is SO, Like, Random Flickr Blogging Monday, Maaaaan

(The image is #5854. RFB explained here.)

"Dude, this headband was, like, soaked in three different kinds of acid for a week, man, and no lie, it's getting me high as a dog just by osmosis! I swear, man, high as a frickin' dog!!"

(Image originally posted here.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Occupation News

With a big hat tip to my good friend nashtbrutusandshort, proprietor of the always excellent blog Categorical Aperitif, allow me to point you towards this essay by Michael Schwartz on TomDispatch, titled 7 Facts Making Sense of Our Iraqi Disaster. Among his seven points are these:

2. There Is No Iraqi Army

5. Outside Baghdad, Violence Arrives with the Occupation Army

This is a well-informed and informative piece, and I urge you all to read the whole thing.

And for more on the Debacle in Iraq(le), check out Glenn Greenwald's take on the recently-released estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths since we began our campaign of shock and awe in that benighted nation.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


This is rather short notice, but there's still time to act. A site that I just saw today provides information on how the people can bring articles of impeachment to bear on a government figure (e.g., Preznit Signing Statement), and even provides forms and a timetable for a nationwide mass mailing. Go check it out, download the .pdf forms and mail away THIS THURSDAY, October 12th. I've got my forms printed up and will put them in the mail Thursday morning. Please join me in this endeavor, and spread the word as far and as wide as you can.

This country can't take two more years of cowboy diplomacy. Let's get the lying bastard and his whole cabal out of office NOW!

Wednesday Vacation Blogging: Paris Redux

As promised, here are more pictures from our time in Paris. Looking at these shots makes me really, really want to go back there soon!

The Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees.
Mrs. Generik enjoying life at a bistro on the Ile de St. Louis.
Detail of the stained glass inside Sainte-Chappelle.
Detail of the ceiling inside the Louvre.
This department store -- now closed for renovation -- had a very famous restaurant on the sixth floor. We just happened to go there the last night they were open, and had a fabulous meal while witnessing the entire staff go more or less crazy celebrating (or mourning, perhaps) their impending shutdown.
Notre Dame in shadow at twilight.
Place St. Michel in the Latin Quarter. This was a focal point of the student riots in 1968.
A clock tower in Place de la Bastille. Don't go looking for the former prison there, as the building was torn down long ago.
A fountain in Place de Vosges. Built in 1605, it is the oldest square in Europe.
Detail of a fountain in Place de la Concorde.
The Grand Palais, view one.
Grand Palais, view two.
Traffic is not as bad as it is in Rome or many cities in China, but it can get heavy.
One of many picturesque bridges across the Seine.
Detail of a lamppost on another bridge.
When I'm not photographing architecture, I like to take pictures of food. Like this display in a cafe window along Rive Gauche.
And for dessert...
The view from Sacre Coeur.
Same spot, looking in a different direction.
I found the wire artwork surrounding this building very intriguing.
And the bas-relief on this apartment building I also thought was very cool.
A view of Sacre Coeur from the roof of the Musee d'Orsay. Au revoir, Paris!

Monday, October 09, 2006

yadnoM gniggolB rkcilF modnaR

(Random Flickr Blogging explained here. This week's number is IMG_7382.)

"Greetings, American friends! I am Yoshi-Maru, and I bring you the Radish of Truth, direct from MangaWorld! Please use judiciously in your lunchtime repast or bento box. The Radish of Truth will set you free, American friends!"

(Original picture posted here.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Punch Line In Search Of A Joke

"The calls are coming from inside the House... of Representatives!"


Word Of The Day

This is actually the word of yesterday: On my Weird and Wonderful Words calendar, yesterday's word was "ignotism," defined as "an obsolete word meaning 'a mistake due to ignorance.'" Doesn't that define exactly the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and, indeed the entire oeuvre of the maladministration that those elections put in power?

Used in a sentence: "America has been suffering for nearly six years from unprecedented ignotism."

Maybe it's time to unretire that word, to bring it back from obsolescence.


Who is your Dead Celebrity Soulmate? Find out with this quick and easy quiz. Mine turned out to be, in order, Frida Kahlo, Eva Peron and Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria?!?!? Yikes!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Where Do You Want To Go?

Because today's a relatively quiet day for me (meaning I have time to waste making posts on this blog), and because I know you all care enormously about my personal life, or even live vicariously through me, and because I can't post about rising fascism or the loveliness of Paris all the time, I wanted to share with you my excitement at being the owner of a brand new Toyota Prius. Mrs. G and I made the decision to buy one in August, and it took almost six weeks to arrive after we ordered it, but it's finally here. We've had the car for a week and a half now, and I just love it. It's been close to 20 years since I've owned a brand new, right off the lot vehicle (the last one was a year old when we bought it), and the smell alone is worth the price of this month's payment.

There are so many bells and whistles on this car I hardly know where to begin. It's like I'm now driving George Jetson's car. I can make the sound of the stereo move all over the inside, focusing on the front or back, driver's side or passenger side. There's a talking navigational system that tells me how to get virtually anywhere, and identifies local shops and restaurants and such. A readout on the dash screen (there's a dash screen!) tells me what my mileage per gallon is at any given moment, and what the average is. When I put the car in reverse, a camera on the underside of the back bumper shows me what's behind me. It starts with the push of a button -- no key turned, no gas pedal depressed, no choke -- and is virtually silent at low speeds. The mileage it gets is amazing, and is especially welcome in these days of arm and a leg pricing at the gas pump.

One thing that is taking some getting used to is that it is an automatic. In all my years of driving, since I was 15 and my mother handed me the keys to our '71 VW van and said, "Here, drive yourself to school, you'll learn," I've always driven a car with a standard transmission. The first car that I actually owned myself was a '52 Plymouth that my grandfather gave me when he could no longer drive it, and ever since, I've only had cars that required me to push in the clutch and shift gears manually. Driving the Prius, I occasionally find myself reaching for that non-existent stick shift, and my left leg is seriously atrophying from disuse.

But it handles really well, is quick and more than powerful enough for my needs. I've had no problems at all driving on even the steepest of San Francisco hills -- and I have to say that it's a lot easier negotiating some of the more vertiginous ones without having to play the game of holding the car almost in gear while trying not to slide backwards into the bay or popping the clutch and stalling out at the crest of a hill. And man, is it comfortable.

In the past, I've never been a fan of extended warranty options and that sort of thing, but with this car I made an exception. It's covered for seven years, and the regular servicing is included in the monthly payment. So I can take it to any Toyota dealer, anywhere, and get pretty much anything that might happen to be wrong with it fixed whenever I need to.

So that's my story, and I'm stuck with it. Happily!

Your Fascist State Begins In 5, 4, 3, 2...

While the Mark Foley scandal is the hot topic du jour on the internets right now (and please read Tom Hilton's excellent post at If I Ran the Zoo detailing why he is somewhat uncomfortable about getting too happy over it -- he echoes my feelings about this incident almost exactly), my concern is more for the under-reported (especially lately, what with illicit teenage gay sex and Congressional IM'ing to orgasm dominating the news cycle) Military Commissions Act of 2006 that is poised to soon become the law of the land and cement our position as the new Fourth Reich. My good friend nashtbrutusandshort, over at Categorical Aperitif, has written an outstanding post detailing just why this particular piece of legislation is so ominous, and since he's already done the heavy lifting, I'll just defer to him.

Because while I'm more than happy to see Republican hypocrisy exposed and their morally bankrupt practices brought into the light of day, ultimately the harm done in the Foley scandal (despite the "What about the children™?!?" aspect of it) affects very few people, and will prove to be short-lived. The harm in tossing aside habeas corpus -- a concept embraced as law ever since the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 -- and concentrating power in the hands of a unitary executive -- especially one as malevolent and vindictive as this one is -- is so much further-reaching, and has the potential to affect each and every one of us for years to come. This is a shameful and obscene -- not to mention patently unconstitutional -- piece of legislation that should have been opposed by every Congressperson with even half a brain and a sense of justice and history. Unfortunately, as could have been predicted, the rubber-stamp Republicans fell all over each other in their eagerness to hand their president the power to imprison and torture their constituents at will; what's worse is that a number of Democrats, apparently fearing that they would otherwise be subject to charges of being "soft on terrorism," joined them in voting for this abomination.

We are all on the slipperiest of slopes right now, and the America that you and I learned about as we were growing up is rapidly disappearing. As may any one of us that the president decides is an "enemy combatant" once his power grab is complete. See you at Gitmo, kids.

Wednesday Vacation Blogging: Paris

Paris, the City of Light.

I've been thinking about Paris a lot lately. My friends Chris and Dana are there right now, and my good friend Scott just recently returned from one of his many visits to that city. Mrs. Generik and I were there for a week in June, 2005, and between the two of us took over a thousand photographs of what I thought then was the most beautiful city I'd ever seen. (I've since decided that Prague edges Paris out in that department, but not by much.)

Just as we did in Prague, we rented an apartment for our time there, rather than staying in a hotel. The advantage to doing this was that we got much more space and privacy for our money, including a full kitchen and dining room, and we had a washer and dryer in the apartment, which came in very handy in the middle of a six-week trip. We also, I believe, experienced Paris in a manner closer to the way people who live there do than the average tourist.

Because we have so many pictures, this post is just part one of two. Even with the number of pictures we took, and all the walking and sightseeing we did, we barely scratched the surface of this incredible city. There are dozens of sights that we didn't get to see, unfortunately -- which only means that we must return. Soon, I hope!

(As always, click on the pictures for a larger view. Part II coming soon!)

The Hotel de Ville (City Hall) at night. While we were there, Paris was lobbying hard for the 2012 Olympic games, as evidenced by this "Paris 2012" sign on the building. This same logo was everywhere throughout the city. A few weeks later, the Olympic committee awarded the 2012 games to London.
The view across the courtyard from our 6th-floor apartment. We were in the 2nd arondissement, just a block away from the two islands in the Seine, Ile de St. Louis and Ile de la Cite, and very close to the Metro St. Paul.
A street in the lovely Montmartre district, not far from Sacre Coeur.
Of course it's all about the Eiffel Tower there. Many Parisians hated it when it was first built, and apparently some still don't think too highly of it, but it's an international icon recognizable the world over.
Regardless of what you think of it, you have to admit that it's a pretty damned impressive structure -- especially close up.
Mrs. G got this very interesting shot standing directly underneath it one night after we'd had a wonderful dinner at nearby Chez Francis.
Impressive structure, international icon, all-day sucker. The Eiffel Tower is many things to many people.
Another well-known structure: Notre Dame cathedral.
Another view of Notre Dame.
Sacre Coeur, atop Monmartre, visible throughout most of the city.
Another view of Sacre Coeur.
For my money, La Sainte-Chappelle is actually even more beautiful than Notre Dame. Here is the ceiling on the first floor...
...and here is just some of the stained glass on the second floor. We saw people literally gasp with amazement when they first entered this room. This 13th century structure is absolutely breathtaking, and grown men have been known to weep because, as my friend Scott said, "it's just so fucking gorgeous."
Public art in Paris really has balls.
The Musee d'Orsay. Mrs. G is mad for impressionist painters, so this was a must-see. Mary Cassatt is supposedly a distant relative -- and the recent Monet in Normandy show here in SF was a real delight for her, as was our day-trip to Giverny to visit Monet's house and garden.
Inside the Musee d'Orsay, which was originally built as a train station.
The clock in the Musee d'Orsay.
One view of the I. M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre.
A more conventional view.
This artwork graces the entrance to the Metro station very near the Louvre.
Walking back to our apartment from our tour of the Louvre, we came across this unique apartment building.
A close-up of the apartmental artwork. After seeing this, I find myself in favor of Free Electrons.
Night on the Ile de St. Louis.
I waited for this guy for hours, and he never did show up. C'est la vie. Au revoir for now!
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